Emerging Indigenous Scholars Learn Lab Skills at QMI

02 Aug2019

This summer, Stewart Blusson QMI had the pleasure of hosting students from the Pacific Institute for Mathematical Sciences (PIMS) Emerging Indigenous Scholars Summer School Program. The program involves several weeks of coursework in English and math, as well as a lab internship at partner institutes in the Lower Mainland, including QMI and TRIUMF.

As noted on the PIMS website, “The internships are a key component of the program and have proved a great success over the years — the students enjoy a unique experience working on real-world projects alongside prominent postdoctoral and faculty mentors at the University of British Columbia.” More about the program and QMI’s participation can be read here.

A primary aim of the internships is to help make the students feel empowered with the realization that a career in STEM is a possibility within reach.

While most of the students – from John Oliver and Britannia Secondary schools – had never heard the word “quantum” before coming to QMI, they left understanding that laboratory work and a career in materials research can offer a fascinating range of experiences.

Much of this was due to the mentorship skills of Becky Lin and Donald Witt from the Chrostowski group, as well as Christopher Gutierrez from the Damascelli group, who created a hands-on, interactive program to introduce the four tenth-graders to typical lab activities such as microscopy, solutions-based crystal growth – eventually walking them through the steps for measuring, designing and building lab components using AutoCAD and a waterjet cutter.

At the end of the internship, students were rewarded with the experience of making liquid nitrogen ice cream.

The students also left behind a legacy at QMI that will remain in good use: an acrylic enclosure for an optical measurement tool in the Young/Chrostowski photonics lab.

 “They helped to build an important enclosure for our optical measurement stage setup,” explains Lin. “Previously, dust could freely collect on the surface of our silicon photonics chips which could interfere with our measurements and also damage the devices on the chip. The students helped measure and design the enclosure, learned to draw the design on 3D CAD software, and cut out the acrylic pieces with the water jet. They also assembled the enclosure and we have been using it since.”

Becky and Donald, along with Natalia Bussard, Manager, Programs and Careers were recognized for their contributions to the program at its closing ceremony on August 2nd.

Story, Photos: Sophia Han